Home | Research and I-Search | Working Bibliography | A Doll's House | If Not Higher | Steps to writing | MLA Format | Q, P, S | Works Cited | In-Text Citation | Source use samples | Avoiding Plagiarism | Fire Fighting Future | Contact Me
Research and I-Search
ENG 102 Guides


There are two ways to approach the Big One.
You may use the "Standard" research mode, or you may use an "I-Search" mode. 
Below is an explanation of each type--there are samples of the essays on other pages of this site.

Standard "Academic" essay
Introduction:  This block of information needs an attention getter, background information about the topic and any vocabulary defined for the audience.  This is where the topic is opened, and you inform your rearder of your intention.   This leads to the thesis of the essay and should be about 2 pages long.  (History could be included in the intro--but a short one!)
Body:  Research is used here.  This is where you prove your thesis--develop your thinking, illustrate your points, use your resarch, etc.  This is the "meat" of the essay and should be about 7-9 pages long.
Conclusion:  This block needs three things:  restate the thesis, recap the main points and have a "get us out" statement.  If you have a persuasive thesis--this is where you have a call to action or make a prediction about what will happen next.

The I-Search is very different from the standard research essay in some ways, but the overall requirement of the research and thesis are the same.  Pay particular attention to the format of the I-Search and the requirement of the sections.

The I-Search paper will be written in five integrated sections.  Use the following Subtitles--On the margin, bold print, same size font as the text:

  • Introduction
  • What I knew or Assumed
  • The Search
  • What I Discovered
  • What's next?


Introduction: The introduction of your essay should give your reader some indication of why you have chosen to write about this particular topic. Keep in mind that your essay needs to have some point. What message do you want to communicate to your reader. The message needs to be something more than "I want to be a ----- when I grow up." This is where you need to begin to develop your thesis.  It may be a "thinking" thesis (I though that...), or even your research question.

What I Knew or Assumed: Think about what you knew when you were given the topic.  How many classes had you taken so far?  What about the field/job did you think was true (or likely)?  Write a section in which you explain to the reader what you knew, what you assumed, or what you imagined about your topic. There are no wrong answers here. You are basically establishing a direction for your research.

The Search: Write your search in a narrative form, relating the steps of the discovery process (this means that you are going to tell the story of what you did to research this topic and what you learned in the process). Do not feel obligated to tell everything (you don't have to tell the reader the boring stuff), but highlight any ideas you developed that were crucial to your hunt and contributed to your understanding of the topic/research question.  (This is where you get to brag--or complain--about all the research you have been doing for four weeks!)

What I Discovered: After concluding your search, compare what you thought you knew, assumed, or imagined with what you actually discovered, assess your overall learning experience, and offer some personal commentary about the value of your discoveries and/or draw some conclusions. Some questions that you might consider at this stage:

  • How accurate were your original assumptions?
  • What new information did you acquire?
  • What did you learn that surprised you?
  • Overall, what value did you derive from the process of searching and discovery?

Don’t just do a question/answer conclusion. Go back to the main point you want to make with this essay. What final message do you want to leave with your readers?  Remember your thesis at the introduction--you should have been "proving" your opinion all along, so here is where you pull it together.


Special thanks to Francie Quaas-Berryman, English Department,Cerritos College

Enter supporting content here